The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth…
Let us attempt to get at the practical and permanent principles which underlie this remarkable prophecy, and which are at once profoundly suggestive and exceedingly important.
1. The terribly significant truth, that earthly power, in and of itself, degenerates into brutality. The appropriate symbol of a great empire is a wild beast. The kingdoms of the earth have stood on military conquest. Might has taken the place of right. The sword has been the arbiter of imperial dynasties, and the struggles between rival powers have been as fierce and destructive as the contentions of wild animals in the jungle.
2. The tendency of this brutality is to increase. Note the order in which the four beasts are set. Bad as the Babylonians were, they were outdone by the Persians; these were exceeded by the Greeks; while the Romans were the worst of all. Note that all this while the nations were growing in what has been called culture and civisation. This was a merely superficial thing, and served only to veneer the rottenness and cruelty which were beneath.
3. The restoration of man to humanity must come, not from himself, but from above. He who introduced the healing salt which is yet to purify thoroughly the bitter fountain of our earthly life was sent forth from "the ancient of days." There are few more striking arguments for the Divine origin of the Gospel, and the deity of its author, than that which may be drawn from the contrast between the character of Jesus and that of His age. Surely, the hope of the world lies in the diffusion of the Gospel of Christ. Wherever the Gospel goes in power, it restores men to humanity by bringing them back to God. Civilisation without the Gospel is only a veneered brutality.
(William M. Taylor, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it.
WEB: The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I saw until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made to stand on two feet as a man; and a man's heart was given to it.